ALL of the best furniture paints we recommend and fun after effects! Even if you haven’t painted furniture before, this guide makes it easy to know the what, why and how.
I can’t think of anything more disheartening than a bad paint job. All the prep and work you put into a piece of furniture, accessory, or cabinets to watch them chip and fail is the worst. And, unfortunately, I have seen it many times with friends and clients. The truth is that over the many years of painting furniture and refinishing, not all products are created equal.
So, today, I thought I would take some time to share a short-ish guide to my favorite paints for furniture! I have used so many different kinds and, honestly, paints are NOT all the same. Don’t worry, it isn’t scary, and in no time you will be a slightly-addicted-furniture-refinishing fool, like me!
Tips for Painting Furniture – Before You Start
Before we go into the paint, prep work and finding the right piece is where the real magic begins. If your interested in how to find pieces that are just screaming for a makeover, check out our best tips for scoring deals on Craigslist or yard sales. If you don’t live in a great place for Craigslist, other great places to look are your local Facebook buy, sell, and trade groups. Just search your town or county’s name alongside “buy/sell/trade”.
I also won’t go too much into the prep-work necessary for painting furniture, but if you are interested, we have articles on removing wood grain (also great for scratches), and how to protect your furniture with a topcoat polyacrylic. If your piece doesn’t require much repair, all of the paints that I recommend only need to be cleaned really well with either Simple Green or TSP if you have heavy stains. After cleaning, sand well with 120-220 grit sandpaper. If you are painting a piece with knots or kitchen grease stains, add a layer of shellac primer over those spots to keep any discoloration from seeping into your paint.
Supplies for Painting Furniture That I use and Recommend
Links are included to show you what I am referring to:
- Orbital Sander or Mouse Sander
- Sanding Bricks
- Paint Brush (my favorite for a smooth finish are actually the small takylon brushes you can buy at Michael’s and other craft stores. For larger brushes, I like these natural bristle ones give a handpainted look.)
- Microfiber rollers (optional, but painting large, flat areas is much faster and easier and smoother this way)
- Something to stir the paint with
- Sprayer (optional, but here is the one we use or you can read our guide to choosing the best paint sprayer here)
- Drop Cloths
- Blocks of wood or table (to paint the bottom edges)
Considerations for Paint to Use
The good news is it won’t take long to see your furniture totally transform in a matter of a few hours. But first, you need the right products. I admit that I do not use the same furniture paint for every project, nor should you. To get the best results, there are a few considerations:
- Painting method – brush, spray, or roller (how smooth and free of brush strokes do you want the paint to be?)
- Durability Factor – How often will the piece be touched, banged, or used?
- Sheen Factor – What kind of sheen do you want? Matte, satin, or gloss?
What Paint To Choose
To make this easy, here is a shortcut chart about the paints I usually recommend and the situations around them:
All of the paints I recommend are also very low to no VOC, so I can paint them indoors with no fumes!
I think it’s a fair disclaimer that I am not a big fan of chalk paint in general. It is simply a personal preference as I don’t like how it feels when dry and I have tried several brands as well as done many pieces for clients. I find that Chalk Paint tends not to be very durable or scrubbable without a top coat, and, in my home with boys, I need maximum durability and cleaning. However, chalk paint is great for things like home decor signs, picture frames, or furniture that doesn’t have constant handling.
Desk Painted with Chalk Paint
The best I have found is a DIY chalk paint, and it is much cheaper than the fancy brands. Here is the recipe:
- Interior Paint (I usually use Acrylic Paint or A paint without primer – I find that certain paints+primer can make the texture gummy, but different brands may not have that problem)
- 4 oz of Calcium Carbonate
- Dissolve 3/4 cup of calcium carbonate powder in just enough water to reach a smooth consistency. It shouldn’t be too watery. I would say about the consistency of salad dressing is perfect.
- Pour the calcium carbonate mixture into 3 cups (24 oz) of paint, stirring well. After it is smooth, add a bit more paint to make 1 full quart (about 1/4 cup) and stir again.This recipe sits well in a cool dry place for a few days, when tightly covered. Just give it a stir before using. The calcium carbonate powder also has a long shelf life in a sealed bag.
Fusion Mineral Paint
Fusion Mineral is the paint I use most often. I love the matte sheen, which is still pretty flat but not quite as flat as chalk paint. I would say that the sheen of Fusion Mineral is somewhere between chalk paint and chalk paint after a clear wax finish. You can learn more about Fusion Mineral here, but here are my general thoughts:
- Can be brushed or sprayed with a paint sprayer. For large flat areas, I would use a microfiber roller to lessen brush strokes, unless you are spraying.
- Wax and finishes work great without altering the color as much as chalk paint.
- Controlled distressing is a breeze.
- Some colors can be a bit easier to work with and spread better. This is more of a boutique paint and made in smaller batches than your commercial brands.
- Fusion Mineral is very durable but I wouldn’t use it without a polyacrylic on surface that will see a lot of wear, such as a kitchen table or a heavily used dresser. However, I often use this with a top coat poly and even did my kitchen island with it.
Benjamin Moore Advance Alkyd Paint
This isn’t my necessarily my favorite paint, but it is one I use often in specific situations. Here are the situations I would use this in:
- When I want maximum durability without a topcoat.
- When I cannot use a sprayer, but want the most brush stroke free finish.
- When I would like a Satin or slightly glossy finish.
I did my stair banisters with it, laundry room cabinets, and a dresser, and they have held up beautifully. It is also easy to wipe off dirty fingerprints. This paint does, in fact, come in a flat sheen and an eggshell. My store does not have those sheens and thus, I have not used them. However, I will say that I wasn’t impressed with the high gloss. The cure time was far too long for me.
The only trouble I have ever had with this paint is when I tried to thin it with water. If you do require thinning, I might choose another paint.
Miss Mustard Seed Milk Paint
This is a paint with a very specific finish. It’s called “chippy” because rather than distressing furniture via sanding it off, the paint sort of chips off to give it that style. It authentically creates an aged finish that looks much more natural than other paints.
- It is virtually brush stroke free, and much easier to work with than other paints if you don’t want brush strokes.
- Miss Mustard Seed works really well on raw wood as well. It is very durable and soaks down into the wood. It does not chip as much on raw wood.
- Probably the most natural ingredient paint you will find on the market. Great for people with sensitivities to chemicals.
- It is a very thin paint and takes a bit of practice to learn how it behaves.
If you are interested in learning more about how to use milk paint, I highly recommend watching this workshop on working with Milk Paint.
Dresser Painted with Miss Mustard Seed Milk Paint
There are so many fun finishes out there! When I refer to finishes, I don’t mean protective topcoats, although many finishes do act as a bit of protection. Finishes are like adding jewelry to your favorite little black dress. The dress is wonderful on it’s own, but that extra touch enhances the whole package. Finishing is what I would generally task for an intermediate painter. Here are some of the finishing products that I love and where to buy them:
Fusion Mineral Furniture Wax – Most tutorials show using wax as a protective finish, but it is also a great decorative finish. Here are some of the decorative finishes you can do with wax-
- Use dark wax to age a piece. Particularly with a light colored piece, I lay the wax over a polyacylic.That’s just my preference so that I get the durability of the polyacrylic and the lustre of the wax. This also keeps the wax from seeping into the paint and making it more controllable.
- Mix in metallic cream to give a bit of metallic sheen.
- Mix in metallic guilding powder for more of a metallic punch.
- Tint the wax with a bit of paint to layer different colors.
Liming Wax – I did a cerusing technique on this table and liming furniture is a very beautiful, but specific finish.
Metallic Cream – This is a metallic paint that can be buffed over a second paint color to leave a beautiful metallic lustre. I really like this cream one and this pearl one but the second is much more expensive, so it comes down to color preference.
More Furniture Painting and Refinishing Projects
- How to Paint A Bathroom Vanity
- How To Paint without Brush Marks
- Painting Outdoor Furniture to Last
- Painting Oak Kitchen Cabinets
- Our Entertainment Center Transformation